The structure of feeling, which is a key term in Raymond Williams’s theories of cultural studies, is defined as “social experiences in solution, as distinct from other social semantic formations which have been precipitated and are more evidently and more immediately available”. This concept has been employed as an analytic tool since 1950s and it provides a new perspective to understand and interpret Rebecca Harding Davis’s writing of American women in the second half of the nineteenth century. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the United States had entered a period of transition from agricultural society to industrial society which was marked by dramatic changes in every field of the society. The period after the Civil War was characterized by rapid growth of industrialization, urbanization, transportation reform, and continuous flows of immigrants. These events, the process of which had begun before the war, forever changed people’s life. Being raised in a rapidly growing mill town and witnessing at first hand the cruel realities of the Civil War, Rebecca Harding Davis made timely response to the rapidly changing world and shaped her distinctive literature of the mid to late nineteenth century. In her stories about women, Davis seized and recorded American women’s changing structure of feeling which was both complex and subtle with a powerful literary voice. In order to realistically present women’s changing life and their various new experiences, to express their complicated and subtle emotions and feelings when they face their new role both in family and in public sphere, Davis struggled to find new literary forms and experiment with new ways of articulation.
Cite this paper:
Shanshan Li. Rebecca Harding Davis’s Writing of American Women’s Changing Structure of Feeling in the Transition Period (1860s-1890s). 2019 International Conference on Advances in Literature, Arts and Communication (ALAC 2019). 2019, Vol.1: 66-72. https://doi.org/10.35532/JAHS.V1.015